South Africa is world-renowned for its diverse insect populations, which of course include the controversial species of bees. The South African National Biodiversity Institute declared that there are around 2 755 bee species recorded in sub-Saharan Africa – 1000 of which are found in South Africa.
They play a huge role in supporting agriculture as well as our rich biodiversity, and yet despite this, are regarded as pests and subject to frequent extermination efforts. In just a few minutes of reading, find out why many pest control companies do not consider bees pests. Also, find out what to do when you encounter bees and hives in and around your home.
Pest control companies differentiate between bees and other insect pests
Besides the fact that people are wary of bees due to their sting, many do not understand the difference between bees, wasps and hornets. The latter two are commonly considered pests and pest control Cape Town companies frequently remove them from the homes of concerned clients. Bees are often confused with wasps as they have similar shaped bodies. However, wasps are recognisable by their bright black and yellow bands around their abdomens, while bees have a more brown and yellow striped pattern.
Bees have five eyes (three single lens eyes and two compound eyes). Altogether, a worker bee’s main eyes have around 7000 lenses! It is the characteristic electrostatic charge on the bee’s hairs that attracts pollen, which is then brushed into pollen baskets which sit on both rear legs. A bee also has a proboscis which sucks up nectar from flowers and can be used in reverse to feed offspring.
Why many pest control companies do not recommend exterminating bees
Whether you decide to get rid of a beehive yourself or contact a local exterminator, you may be doing much more harm than good when you take it upon yourself to exterminate bees. After a hive has been killed, no guard bees will remain to protect the stores of honey within the hive. This will lead to bees from other hives locating the food source within days or even hours of the hive’s demise. They will unknowingly transfer the insecticide-contaminated honey stores to their own respective beehives which will have terrible results on the colonies in the nearby foraging area. While you may not know it, the damage may become widespread and can impact the ecological integrity of your surrounding area.
While the African honeybee has not yet officially been classified as Threatened, they certainly are experiencing threats in the form of dwindling foraging resources, diseases as well as issues arising from the use and abuse of insecticides and pesticides. Bees play a huge role in supporting our ecosystems which is one reason why they must be protected and treasured. In South Africa, more than 50 different crops rely on honeybees for their success. As such, bees are one of the country’s main drivers in the agriculture sector.
Pest control companies want you to know how bees contribute to agriculture
Thorough pollination methods enacted by bees ensure reliable seed and fruit supplies which in turn improves crop quality. Many of these crops are crucial sources of micronutrients in our daily diets that give us the vitamins our bodies need to function effectively and keep healthy. Further, developed bee colonies contribute to the creation of job opportunities within the agricultural sector which leads to company growth and an expansion in the economy.
How pest control companies suggest you prevent bees
While it would be a big mistake to assume that you should bee-proof your entire property, there are ways in which you can make your home, garden and surrounds an unlikely spot for bees to settle. If you are genuinely concerned with bees building hives in your near vicinity, you can apply some of the following practices:
1. Keep ledges clean, clear and minty
Regularly washing the ledges on the exterior of your home can go a long way to repel hive-building activity – especially when sprayed with mint and soapy water. Mint is an irritant to bees, and sprinkling a handful of mint leaves into your solution is a recommended method. This will prevent bees from settling on the cleaned ledges or spaces.
2. Utilise citronella
Burning citronella candles is another effective way to prevent bees from buzzing around your space, as they do not enjoy the scent, along with many other insects. This method usually does not hold up over time.
3. Bee-proofing your garden
While most of us enjoy bee visitors in our gardens, there are people who cannot tolerate their presence as a result of allergic reactions or deep phobias. Luckily, there are a few ways to keep bees away from your flowers and, indirectly, away from you. One option is to sprinkle cinnamon on your plants each day for at least a week, as cinnamon is another natural repellent. The bees should soon get the message and move on from your space.
Another way to repel bees from your garden is to plant peppermint in the near vicinity. Placing peppermint plants around 1.5 metres away from your flowers that appear to attract the bees will prevent any visiting hive members.
DIY bee removal
Think about the information you have received about the importance of bees to our environment before deciding to remove bees and their hive. If you are disturbed by only a few bees visiting your garden, it is highly unlikely you will need to exert the effort to remove the hive and bee population on your own. In this case, it is advisable to leave the visiting bees alone. However, it is usually the case that bees build their hives in gardens or on the side of your home. In the event of a problematic bee presence, you should consider taking the following steps to solve the problem:
The first step will always be to attempt to contact a pest control company or beekeeper to safely remove the hive without killing countless bees. Bee removal is in fact a specialised service that takes years of knowledge and practice to master confidently and completely. If you are unable or unwilling to contact a professional to assist you, you will need to prepare yourself for a DIY hive removal.
If you have made the decision to remove a hive on your own, you must take care to identify bees. You must also ensure that they really are the insect that you are dealing with. Bees are easily identifiable by their small, round and furry bodies that set them apart from wasps and hornets. The structure of the hive or insect nest is another way to double check your assumptions. Bees build their hives out of wax, while wasps and hornets usually construct their nests using mud or wood fibre.
Now it is time to locate the hive if you have not already done so. If your house and garden is being overrun by bees, it is safe to say that there is a hive nearby. You may find it while inspecting your trees in the garden or the exterior walls of your home. In this case, the bees may have built their nest within the walls and are using a crack or opening as an entry point. If you have found this to be the case, hiring a professional pest control Cape Town company such as Pest Managers is almost always necessary. This is because you wish to get rid of the bees completely.
If you have found the nest to be on a tree nearby or in a built-up hive constructed onto the exterior walls of your home, you have a fair chance of removing it by yourself – although the process is not guaranteed to be a safe or particularly enjoyable experience. Step 4 requires you as the DIY hive remover to wear long-sleeved clothing, heavy clothing, or a beekeeper suit. The latter, however, can be rather costly, so instead you can try to attach a veil to a wide-brimmed hat in order to protect your face, as well as wear gloves and tight pants and closed shoes so as to mimic a beekeeper’s suit. You can sew or tape the seams and openings of your clothing for extra protection.
Rent out or buy a bee vacuum to safely remove the bees. You may be wondering exactly how a bee vacuum works and how it differs from the vacuums we use daily in our homes. The bee vacuum is large and runs on a low-powered setting, pulling in the bees and placing them in a housing unit attached to the vacuum. If you cannot find a bee vacuum, you can technically use a normal vacuum cleaner. This is so long as it is the type with a bag and you remove all debris from said bag before sucking in the bees.
Now that you have an appropriate vacuum, make sure to suck the bees up when they are busy swarming. You will be able to tell when bees are actively swarming by the way in which they cover one particular area – piled on top of one another. This is forming a thick layer. This usually occurs during the warmest hours of the day. When you notice this, kit up appropriately and begin vacuuming from the bottom of the swarm. Make sure to hold the head or hose of the vacuum around 5-7 cm away from the bees and carefully move the vacuum around until you have sucked up as many bees as you can.
Once you have captured every bee you can see, place an airtight lid or cap on the vacuum to ensure it is perfectly sealed.
Release the bees in a safe environment, give them to an experienced beekeeper. If the latter is not an option, you can take the bees into a nearby forest and leave the bag open for them to exit. This will enable them to map a new path out for themselves. Sometimes, however, the bees will not leave the bag so willingly, and may need some coaxing to get out. You can either carefully cut the bag open or use an appropriate smoker to force them to exit.
Remove the remains of the hive with a solution of peppermint soap and water. You will need to flush out the larvae, honey and dead bees to render the hive unusable should any other bees come across it. Peppermint is a natural bee deterrent, which is why it is effective in preventing bees from investigating the remains of the hive as a potential food source. You can also use a solution of white vinegar and hot water to achieve a similar outcome.
Why pest control companies believe you should not be afraid of bees
Parents often instil fear of bees in their children which is carried on generation after generation, creating a harmful cycle of misinformation. It is the bee’s ability to inflict a painful sting in self-defence that scares most people, especially if they are allergic to the stings. However, it is critical to realise that a bee can only sting once, as the act ends its life. Therefore, it uses its sting as a last resort in order to protect the hive or itself in the face of what it perceives to be a serious danger. For most of us, a sting means a few minutes of mild to moderate pain at most.
The following are some reasons that bees should be admired instead of feared:
Honey bees gifted our ancestors with their first condiment – honey! Honey is a natural antioxidant, and it has antibacterial properties which assist with wound care, digestive complications as well as soothes sore throats.
Honey bees are the only insects in the world that produce food in large quantities for the consumption of humans.
Around every third mouthful of food consumed is produced by bees via pollination of plants that produce fruit and vegetables. Some of these foods include: